Human Cooperation and the Crises of Climate Change, COVID-19, and Misinformation

Paul A.M. Van Lange, David G. Rand

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Contemporary society is facing many social dilemmas mdash including climate change, COVID-19, and misinformation mdash characterized by a conflict between short-term self-interest and longer-term collective interest. The climate crisis requires paying costs today to reduce climate-related harms and risks that we face in the future. The COVID-19 crisis requires the less vulnerable to pay costs to benefit the more vulnerable in the face of great uncertainty. The misinformation crisis requires investing effort to assess truth and abstain from spreading attractive falsehoods. Addressing these crises requires an understanding of human cooperation. To that end, we present (a) an overview of mechanisms for the evolution of cooperation, including mechanisms based on similarity and interaction; (b) a discussion of how reputation can incentivize cooperation via conditional cooperation and signaling; and (c) a review of social preferences that undergird the proximate psychology of cooperation, including positive regard for others, parochialism, and egalitarianism. We discuss the three focal crises facing our society through the lens of cooperation, emphasizing how cooperation research can inform our efforts to address them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-402
Number of pages24
JournalAnnual Review of Psychology
Early online date2 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
D.G.R. has received research funding from Google for work related to misinformation. The authors are not aware of any other affiliations, memberships, funding, or financial holdings that might be perceived as affecting the objectivity of this review.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Annual Reviews Inc.. All rights reserved.


  • climate change
  • COVID-19
  • human cooperation
  • misinformation
  • reputation
  • social preferences


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